Tag Archive: transracial parenting

N.A.A.M. Guest Post: “Storytime Adoption”

Each night when my youngest goes to bed we read a story as part of our bedtime routine. We have plenty of stories of her favorite cartoon characters, princesses and talking animals to choose from, but it’s the adoption books she loves best.

I bought ten children’s books on adoption for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. I wanted her to grow up surrounded by books that spoke to her experience and put into words what she went through. They are lovely books that deal with many of the themes of her adoption: being an adopted Chinese girl, why she was adopted, why she was relinquished at birth, who are her Chinese parents and what it means to be part of a blended family.

The adoption books don’t just provide an informative bedtime story for my daughter, but it also teaches me how to talk to her about adoption. The stories have made it comfortable and almost normal to bring up her biological parents and introduce the thought that she has two sets of parents: her biological one and her adoptive ones. The stories have also helped to introduce the idea that her biological parents loved her very much but, for whatever reason, were unable to care for her and so they placed her up for adoption to give her the best opportunities possible.

The books have given way to many conversations about my daughter’s adoption and have normalize her adoption experience. She asks about her Chinese mommy and if one day she will be able to meet her. I have replied that her Chinese mommy loves her very much and we will try and find her one day. I have promised her that when she is older we will try and contact the adoption agency to see if they have any information about her biological parents. My daughter accepts this and looks forward to this day.

Another great subject that these children’s books address is the possibility that an adopted child won’t look like her adoptive parents. In my Caucasian family my Chinese daughter does not look like the rest of us. We read that this is OK and that there are a lot of families out there that don’t all look alike. For now, my daughter accepts this and is proud of her black hair and black eyes.

I’m so grateful for these books and the dialogue they produce. My hope is that having read these books as a child that my daughter’s adoption identity is made more comfortable and normal for her. For the time being, talking about adoption is a natural and easy thing to do.

Melissa is a stay-at-home mom to four beautiful, spirited, rambunctious, loud and energetic children from the ages of 5 to 10. When she’s not chauffering, disciplining or entertaining my kids, she can be found reading at the local coffee shop drinking copious amounts of coffee. She has a love-hate relationship with yoga, though currently yoga finds itself is in the “love” column  For fun, Melissa likes going out to dinner with friends, watching movies in bed and reading the latest New York Times bestselling fiction. She blogs at Three Ways to Baby (follow her on Facebook and Twitter).

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Lessons in Transracial Parenting: Ferguson, MO

I don’t watch TV news much at all. I have a few go-to online new sources and SuperDad and I have pretty frequent discussions about national and international news. I’m actually more likely to be knowledgeable about something happening on the other side of the world, than I am about things happening on the other side of the county. Like many people, I’ve been paying less attention to the events in Ferguson, Missouri than I probably should be.One of the uncomfortable things about transracial parenting is that I’m frequently confronted with myself. I no longer have the luxury of looking at the events in Ferguson through the lens of a middle-class white woman with no connection to St. Louis. My lens now has to be that of the mother, whose son will one day be a young black man, who will someday have an interaction with a cop with racial bias.



I don’t know what happened the day Michael Brown died. I wasn’t there and I’ve never been a fan of believing that I know what happened based on news reports and internet rants. I know that most people don’t have the same hesitation, but this isn’t the place for that. And I know that since the shooting, almost everyone with an opinion has made some poor decisions.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this week about the conversations that I would have with both Squish and Squirm if they were old enough to have a conversation about the events in Ferguson. Pardon the cliche, but I do actively seek out teachable moments for my kids. Unfortunately, I believe that Michael Brown’s death will not be the last opportunity to have this discussion. That’s why I’ve spent so much time praying – for all those involved and impacted, and about what I will say when my boys are old enough to have the conversation.

Another uncomfortable issue I’ve had to confront is the quality (or lack thereof) of the company I keep.

I’ve always been unwilling to tolerate overt racism. Any time I’ve heard any such comments, I’ve made it clear I’m not okay with it and that I won’t listen to it. But that was as far as I went. I felt I was doing my part by being clear that I wouldn’t be a party to such things.

And then I became a mother whose son will one day be a young black man, who will someday be directly impacted by racism. And I’ve realized that my sons deserve better.

So I’m drawing a line in the sand. 

It’s not enough to just not say those things around me.

If you believe that it’s okay to call someone an animal, or feral, or to assume that they must have been doing something illegal, or deserved to be shot – just because of the color of their skin – then you and I cannot be friends.

I don’t want to hear about statistics. I don’t want to hear the justifications for your generalizations – for your RACISM. I don’t want to hear about how you don’t think any of that applies to my son.

I don’t want to hear about “reverse-racism”, and I don’t want to hear about how no one would be rioting if it was a white girl who was shot. I do not want to hear it.

If you can’t understand everything that wrong’s with a white girl self-righteously whining that people wouldn’t riot over her being shot in the streets by a cop, AND you’re not willing to understand why that’s idiotic bullshit, I don’t want to hear it. And I don’t want to hear that you’re not racist, just honest. I WILL NOT hear it.

If you refuse to realize that the above ideas are RACIST and have no place in our world – even as a joke – then we are not friends.

We cannot be friends. I won’t allow it.

Because my sons deserve better.

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I HAVE to be good enough, because I AM his mommy

SPONSORED POSTThis post is paid for by the Ad Council. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve been following my story, you know I’ve wanted to be a foster parent since I was 8 years old. If you haven’t, may I suggest reading about how I got here from there.

When we were being licensed, we were asked if we had any racial preferences or objections. Nope, we said, we’re color-blind. We don’t care about that stuff at all.

Squirm @ 1st sightWhen we got the call for Squirm, his race didn’t phase me at all. Not a problem. We’re color-blind, right? Yeah. Then he shows up with the most adorable baby-fro. And I realize that I DON’T. HAVE. A. FREAKING. CLUE how to take care of his hair – hell, I honestly just figured out what to do with my hair about 5 years ago. Seriously.

So I did what any clueless white foster mom would do – I googled. Which may or may not have been the best first step. I spent the next 2 hours alternately clicking on random google results and poking/pulling at Squirm’s hair trying to determine whether his curls had a “Z” pattern when stretched or an “S”. I still can’t answer that question, but I ultimately decided that his hair falls somewhere in the range of 3b to 4a. Whew! With that question (sort of) solved, I can now turn to what the experts (and by experts, I mean the next 5 random google results) suggest as the go-to product for 3b to 4a hair.

Let me just interrupt myself here to say that while I laugh about this whole process now, at the time I was literally frantic to get to THE.RIGHT.ANSWER. – RIGHTNOW! You see, I was convinced that this was my MOST.IMPORTANT.TEST. as a transracial parent (ha!) and that if I didn’t figure out the best way to care for his hair IMMEDIATELY then the whole world would know that I was a complete failure as a parent and he would be scarred for life. I just kept telling SuperDad – “I don’t him walking around looking like he has white foster parents!!”

So.. what guidance did the next 5 random google results offer? About 15 different opinions about the best and worst products to use on his hair, many of which would list a product as the best and then in the next paragraph describe it as the worst…

Now, if you’ve ever cared for ethnic hair, you’ve probably fallen out of your chair laughing at me by now. If you haven’t, let me just tell you that my sweet baby boy requires 4 different hair care products, to be used at different times during the week. There’s a daily leave-in conditioner/styling aid to make his curls pop. There’s the weekly (Wednesday) shea butter shampoo and restorative conditioner, and the weekly (Sunday) co-wash conditioning cleanser because his delicate hair can’t be washed more than once a week.

But again, I digress. Where was I? Oh! trying to google the single right hair product for my bouncy baby-fro. After another hour fretting in front of the computer trying to decipher a consensus, I despaired that google didn’t have the answer after all – but then I remembered seeing the ethnic hair care section at Wal-Mart.

So I convinced SuperDad that we must load up Squirm & Lady Bug and go to Wal-Mart immediately. Yes, all of us. If you have any experience with infants, you know that it took approximately 3 days to get everyone dressed, diaper-bagged, loaded into the car and then unloaded at the store. We made a beeline for the ethnic section to find….

 

HOLY-MARY-MOTHER-OF-WHAT-THE-HELL-AM-I-SUPPOSED-TO-DO-NOW?!?!?

So I did what any slightly anxious completely panicked mom would do – I grabbed the first person of color I saw and pleaded for help. It happened to be a teen-aged boy just cutting through the aisle with his friends.

Nevertheless, I stepped in front in him with my hand up, said “Excuse me, I have a strange question. I am a foster mom, and this gorgeous little boy has just been placed with me – I don’t have a clue what to do with his hair, can you please help me?”

Luckily the teenager was amused, rather than offended. He also wasn’t much help. He smiled, handed me a brush (for straightened hair) and gestured at the olive oil products and made his escape.

As soon as he was out of sight, I realized that my time spent frantically googling and my instincts could tell me more about caring for my biracial infant’s hair than a teenager with a fade. That gave me my first shot of confidence in my ability to parent this child and I picked out some items that seemed promising. 

We don’t actually still use any of the products that I picked up that day – they were really pretty awful. But I’ve done more research, experimented a little and (thank God) found the natural hair care section at Target. If you’re wondering, that stuff on the top shelf is awesome! 

Don’t get me started on the skin-care consternation, but we figured that one out, too.

I panicked again when I attended a transracial parenting lecture and realized that I hadn’t even begun to realize the challenges we will face. I was frequently completely convinced that there had to be a better home for him – because I was simply not equipped to do him justice. I’m wasn’t good enough to be this precious boy’s mom.

But the bottom-line is this: 

I HAVE to be good enough – because I AM his mommy.

AdoptUSKids has a great new initiative: “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” There are over 100,000 children in foster care ~right now~ waiting for forever homes; 31,000 are between the ages of 11 and 17. And they need you. I can’t count how many times someone has said to us, “I would love to adopt or foster, but I’m just not strong enough.” SuperDad and I have two responses to that:

  1. How do you know until you try?
  2. You have to be, because they need you.

These kids don’t need or expect perfection. They just need someone to care. They deserve to feel loved and wanted and to know that they belong to someone.

Before I get hate mail about saying we were color-blind, I’m intentionally speaking the way we thought before coming a transracial family, in an effort to illustrate just how cavalier we were about the whole thing.

N.A.A.M. Blog Tour: Where did all these boys come from??? (Part 2: Squirm)

In January, just before Squish was reunified with his birth father, I told our agency, “No more boys. Only girls. Girls are more fun and boys’ clothes are boring.”

No more boys.

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, I’m participating in an Adoption Blog Tour (AND GIVEAWAY!). Since we’re hoping to finalize a couple of adoptions in the next few months, I decided to write about the sequence of far-too-many-to-be-coincidence events that aligned and blessed us with two happy, boisterous, affectionate, spirited, funny, exasperating beautiful boys.

Because I’m incapable of making a long any story short, this will be a multipart fairy tale. Hang in there, because I’m pretty sure we all live happily ever after. If you missed it, you can go read the bit about how we got Squish-ed (I’ll wait). Today, let’s talk about

Where Squirms Come From
  • I mentioned this yesterday, but it’s worth noting again: when we were initially licensed, even though we were adamant that 2 was our limit, our licensing specialist licensed us for 3 beds, “just in case”.
  • Two weeks after Squish left, I got a call about a little boy. “I know you didn’t want any more boys,” starts our Licensing Specialist, “but we have to move him from his current foster home, we need someone on this side of the county, and it’s only for a few weeks – he’ll be reunified with his dad soon.
    • Squish’s birth father was identified in September 2012, but due to stupid paperwork delays and unnecessary red tape, Squish wasn’t reunified until January 2013. If Squish had left any sooner, we would probably have already had another baby by the time Squirm needed a new placement, and he would have gone to someone else.
    • We decided to accept the placement because it would help our agency out and it would only be a few weeks anyway. When the Licensing Specialist told me his birth-date (exactly the same as Squish’s), I did a double-take – “Wait, this isn’t [Squish], is it? He just went back to his dad.” “No,” she said, “it says the name is [Squirm], and he’s coming from another foster home.”

SuperDad picked up Squirm from the CPC office and sent me a picture. He was freaking gorgeous! We decided that it was a good thing he’d only be around for a few weeks, because we could oh-so-easily fall in love with those dimples and we definitely wanted only girls.

  • Then I got a call from Squirm’s Case Supervisor – we knew her from a previous case, and she was thrilled when she heard Squirm was coming to our home. He was being moved because the previous foster mom went a little nutty when the case plan goal wasn’t changed to adoption right away.
    • The CS had told Mr. Stork that she needed a home that would support the current case plan (reunification) but that was open to adoption, because Squirm was very likely going to be available for adoption!
  • Squirm has several biological siblings (not enough for a baseball team, but enough for a hockey team and backup goalie). The three siblings just older than him had been adopted by a maternal uncle and aunt. They were asked to take Squirm when he came into care, but passed because they also had three biological children and they just didn’t feel they could handle 7 kids.
    • If the uncle and aunt had had room for him, Squirm would never have been placed in foster care, and we never would have met him.
    • If Squirm had been placed with anyone else when he first came into care, he wouldn’t have needed to be moved, and he wouldn’t have needed us.
    • A friend of mine actually got a call when Squirm initially came into care, but she didn’t have a spot for a boy, so she passed. If she had said yes, we wouldn’t have Squirm!
    • To be honest, from the beginning I was very intimidated by the idea of transracial parenting (I still am, but that’s another post). I was far from convinced that I was up to the task, and I was certain that Squirm deserved someone anyone better than me.
      • Then the maternal aunt reached out to us and asked for a picture of Squirm. My first thought was that she was maybe having second thoughts.
        OH, HELL NO! SuperDad and I instantly circled the wagons – She had her chance, she passed on our baby, and we weren’t going to give a chance to change her mind. That’s when we realized that he owned our hearts and began to pray that Squirm was here to stay.

Like I said, I’m pretty sure we all live happily ever after, but you’ll have to come back for the happy ending because we don’t have the final chapter yet.

* if you’re unfamiliar with any terminology, it might be helpful to check out my primer on foster care lingo.

Foster2Forever positive foster parenting adoption blogs support

Please check out the other foster/adoptive parents who have contributed to the National Adoption Awareness Month Blog Tour by clicking the photo above!

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